Hooksett Votes on Pinkerton Academy Contract March 10

The Hooksett School Board will make a second attempt to establish Pinkerton Academy as one of its schools of record, after a failed attempt last year.

A 10-year tuition agreement with the semi-private Derry high school is on the March 10 ballot. If approved, Hooksett will join Auburn, Chester, Derry and Hampstead as “sending schools.”

In March 2014, a proposed tuition contract with Pinkerton was defeated by Hooksett voters, 1,096 “no” votes to 792 “yes” votes.

This year’s warrant article reads, “Shall The Hooksett School District vote to approve a tuition agreement with Pinkerton Academy for the education of some of Hooksett’s high school students, which provides for a 10-year term beginning on July 1, 2016 that will automatically be extended for an additional five years every five years unless notice of an intent not to extend the agreement is provided by one of the parties, and further calls for Hooksett to agree that beginning in the fourth year of the agreement (that is, during the school year 2019-2020), the District will commit to a minimum financial enrollment set as the average percentage of its eighth grade students who enroll as ninth-graders in the Academy in the years 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019; such minimum financial enrollment percentage will thereafter remain fixed for the duration of the Agreement, unless the parties otherwise mutually agree to a change, and for Hooksett to pay tuition based on Pinkerton’s operating costs per high school student in an amount equal to tuition charged to other Pinkerton sending districts, and for a Hooksett resident  to be appointed as a member of Pinkerton Academy’s Board of Trustees; and further to authorize  the School Board to take  such other and further actions as are necessary to carry the tuition agreement into effect, including the  adoption of minor amendments to the agreement from time to time during its term, without further action by the School District meeting?”

Last year’s failed contract would have required at least 75 students from each grade to attend Pinkerton from years 1 through 5, with a 90 percent attendance rate in years 6 to 10. Some Hooksett residents objected to the percentage requirement, and Charles Littlefield, superintendent of School Administrative Unit (SAU) 15, said that was removed from the agreement to be voted on next week.

Littlefield said in the new proposed contract there will be no “minimum” required by Pinkerton for 2016-17, 2017-18 or 2018-19. Beginning in 2019-20 there will be a minimum, he said, but it will be based on the percentage of Hooksett eighth-graders who chose to go to Pinkerton the previous year.

It’s a matter of “self-selection,” Littlefield said, with the minimum for the final seven years of the contract based on the percentage of children who chose Pinkerton the previous year.

Hooksett School Board Chairman Joanne McHugh said the difference between this and the previous contract is that, “This time Hooksett will be the one to determine the level of students attending.” She explained that under the contract, the board and administration will take a three-year average of the students selecting Pinkerton and that would be the minimum number they need to send to Pinkerton in the fourth year.

The new standard was arrived at after “a lot of negotiation,” McHugh said. “Hooksett went into the negotiations with the request that Pinkerton look at their difference from the other sending towns.”

Chief among those differences, McHugh said, is the “long history” with Manchester schools and the number of parents who want Manchester for their children.

McHugh said Pinkerton “understands where we’re coming from” and that this proposed arrangement has a better chance of being accepted by voters.

McHugh said the idea is to have both Hooksett and Manchester be “anchor schools.”

There is a long history with Manchester, McHugh said, and some families “feared that would no longer be an option.”

The contract if approved would go into effect July 1, 2016, and go into effect with the 2015-16 school year.

Hooksett began seeking other options for its high school students after a public ending of its contract with the Manchester school system two years ago.

Currently, Hooksett students may attend Bow, Londonderry, Pembroke Academy or Manchester high schools.